Quality is job 3.1

July 22nd, 2016

Ok, that’s an ‘90s-era Microsoft joke.

But, sometimes it’s true. During my unscheduled free time, I’ve been building the third version of my news engine.

V1 is Serendeputy which is still happily up and running. I wrote that in 2008-2009. Social was far less important then, and responsive design was not yet a thing; as a result, the app is showing its age.

I was working on v2 when NPR recruited me in 2014. I put it down when I took that job.

So now, it’s 2016, and it’s time for v3. The basic JTBD remain the same. I still have the tests from v2, so I’m not starting totally from scratch.

I’ve been living with this itch for the greater part of a decade. I have a pretty good idea of what it should look like. It’s time to realize that vision.

Free Agent

June 29th, 2016

I’m no longer with NPR. NPR restructured its Digital Services division, and my position as Senior Director of Product Strategy and Development was eliminated.

So, there you go.

I still believe in the mission of public media. As a listener, I’ll still always drift to the left of the dial. My bedroom’s clock radio remains locked on WBUR, my office radio on Classical Radio Boston. Sonos on the weekend will continue to alternate between XPN’s Exponential Radio and KCRW’s Eclectic 24 — exposing the children to decent music as they’re growing up. Pop Culture Happy Hour makes my Friday runs far more pleasant.

NPR One remains the most innovative product on the market — and the best shower radio ever invented.

I’m glad that public media exists — I’m a sustaining member of WBUR, WGBH and WXPN — and I hope that they’ll continue telling great stories and building great experiences.

Ok, so what’s next?

I’m a little young to retire, so I should probably keep working.

I see three main paths — consulting and building, Startupland or BigCoLand. Each has its charms.

I’ve had good success working as an independent consultant, helping CEOs and Founders focus their product strategies and move in the right direction. I can also give informed, disinterested second opinions, what I refer to as "Sanity Checking as a Service."

The consulting lifestyle has its advantages. I mostly work out of my home office, and I have time to build other things and manage the Butler household more tightly. The cashflow tends to be more erratic, though.

I miss Startupland. I’ve been in and out of startups since 1997, and none of my adventures in BigCoLand have had the same energy and sense of possibility.

I found that I couldn’t effectively work at a startup when the children were small (and when I had an ailing senior in the house). The children are now happy tweens, and I think that I can look seriously at this route again.

I don’t want to dismiss BigCoLand out of hand, though. I like the chance to work on bigger problems, and it’s great to know that (literally) tens of millions of people will benefit from your work.

What now?

Over the summer, I’m probably pick up a little consulting work while figuring out the longer-term solution.

And, I get to write again!

I couldn’t comment publicly on any causes or issues when I was working as a public-facing employee of a news organization. This is entirely appropriate, but I’m happy that I no longer have that constraint.

I hope to be able to get back to writing several thousand words a week. Some of them I’ll publish, some I’ll trash. It’s the discipline that matters. I enjoyed when I used to be a decent writer; I’d like to get back to that.

I’m working on a "consolidated learnings" Tinderbox to pull together (for myself, if no one else) my current best takes and pointers. Depending on how things go, I may release this as "Jason’s Guide to the Universe" later this year. No promises on that, though.

I’m really excited to get to build stuff again

Executives at large organizations don’t get to touch stuff. As is appropriate. Still, I miss the ability to fire up Emacs and make the machine dance to my song.

First things first: this very website. I launched JPButler.com in early 2001, hand-writing all the code for the site. You can still see some of that embarrassing work on my Habitat for Humanity New Zealand and Tanzania sections. After a couple years, I migrated the blog part to Movable Type and then to WordPress. That’s the site you see right now.

And, boy is it creaky.

So, I’m going to rewrite this site. Once I have a modern stack, I’m going to build out some tools for myself to automate bits of my life. I haven’t been able to use my own site as a sandbox; now I will.

I’ll also consolidate some of my other writings around the web — 39 Essays among others — into one master site.

Next: Rebuilding my news-personalization apps. I wrote Serendeputy in 2008. The software still runs and I still use it every day, but it’s really beginning to show its age.

The other band-aid app I wrote was TweetDeputy which reads my Twitter feed and pulls out the links being shared. I actually use TweetDeputy a lot. Even though it doesn’t have the personalization elements of Serendeputy, it has a high enough hit rate that I check in with it several times a day.

Before I was recruited into NPR, I was working on the next generation of Serendeputy. I’m going to go back to that Github repository and see what I can use and what I would need to rewrite. The universe has moved a lot since 2008, and I’d like to be able to have an updated version of the application (even if it’s only for my use.)

I’m also a much better software engineer now than I was then. That should help!

Sharpening the saw

A little unscheduled free time is going to help me sharpen my saw and shake off the rust. I’ll need to get back to a reasonable level of competence on the stuff I’ve used before: Ruby, Rails, JS, Linux, Postgres, Ansible, etc.

I’m really looking forward to playing more with R, Analytics, and proper Machine Learning techniques. Serendeputy (currently) uses approximations of some of these techniques; I might as get really good at using them properly.

Personal

One thing I learned at Compass Aging was that "your life is far better in your sixties if you try a little harder in your forties."

I’m getting back to running in Minuteman National Park every midday during the week. I have a 5.5 mile loop that I am trying to master. I hope to be able to consistently nail a 10-minute pace for that loop by the end of the summer.

I’ve also been getting back to my DDP Yoga routine. It’s embarrassing how much more flexible my 10-year-old is that I am. Probably stronger too. I should see to that.

So, that’s the update. I have a little more free time now, so please let me know if you want to catch up. Most people reading this have my cell phone number (Touchdown Jason). My email address is Jason at this domain. You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Have a great summer!

Jason’s Great Podcast Roundup: 2016 edition

January 2nd, 2016

I’ve been listening to podcasts since the middle of the last decade, before iTunes. I love them, and I’m glad that they’re in the middle of a boom period.

I’m also in the car for 2.5 hours a day, so I need a lot of them to keep me company.

Here’s what I’m spending most of my listening time on right now.

Disclaimer: I work for NPR, so I have a professional interest in how people listen to audio, and podcasts specifically. That said, this is my personal playlist — I’m sure the folks in the newsroom would like to add a couple of others on to it…

My Tech World

The Pub podcast, from Current is about as niche as personal radio can get. It’s all about the business and art of public radio and public media. Almost everything Adam Ragusea talks about is directly relevant to my day job. (And, I know a decent number of the guests.)

On the Media is the very-well-named podcast covering all manner of issues surrounding the media today.

The next group of podcasts are all around the tech and startup industry.

This Week in Tech with Leo Laporte and a roundtable of guests is one of the very old-school ones. TWiT accompanies my Monday morning drive each week.

Exponent with Ben Thompson and James Allworth is a deeper, more strategy-focused take on the week’s news. Thompson is the writer of Stratechery, one of the news sources on the web that I actually pay for.

PandoLIVE is a weekly show with Sarah Lacy and Paul Carr. Pando is another site I subscribe to.

On a side note, both Stratechery and Pando are doing interesting experiments around enabling subscriber sharing of paywalled content.

Security Now is another old-school podcast. Steve Gibson gets incredibly technical and detailed. This is usually my Wednesday morning commuting podcast. I also threaten to put this on when the children are misbehaving in the back seat.

The Codebreaker podcast is a new one from our friends at Marketplace. It is a series asking the simple question of "Is it evil?" They’ve gone after email, data tracking, going viral and more.

The A16Z Podcast is from Andreessen Horowitz, one of the top venture capital firms in the country. They will usually focus on the business dynamics and structures of the tech startup world.

Politics

I also try to keep up with politics, as best I can. Because of my role at NPR, I’m not allowed to advocate in any political way, but I can share what I listen to.

The Slate Political Gabfest is another first-generation podcast that I’ve been rolling with for a long time.

Common Sense with Dan Carlin brings a different Gen-X take on politics.

From the public media world, I listen each week to the NPR Politics podcast, to The Ticket from KUT in Austin, and to Left, Right and Center from KCRW in Los Angeles. All are welcome alternatives to the shoutiness of the commercial world.

News

I don’t listen to too much straight news in podcasts, but I do catch up on The Economist Editor’s Picks each week. It’s the top 3-5 stories from that week’s edition.

I listen to the NPR One app in the shower each morning and it gets me caught up immediately. It starts with NPR National Newscast, then follows it up with the local Newscast (from WBUR, in my case — the app will pick up your local station automatically). Then, it will go into stories that it’s learned I’ll be interested in.

Boston News and Politics

The Boston Public Radio podcast sends out the highlights of Jim Braude and Margery Eagan’s daily show on WGBH.

The Scrum from WGBH does a great job covering Boston and Massachusetts statewide politics.

Football

This is the last weekend of the regular season — through the Patriots will keep rolling for a while. These are the podcasts that keep me company.

The Ross Tucker Football Podcast is my favorite of the daily football podcasts. I’ve been listening since he was on ESPN’s Football Today podcast, and he’s only gotten better since he’s gone independent.

The Around the NFL podcast comes from NFL.com, the media arm of the NFL. They have a good vibe, even when they are making fun of Gregg Rosenthal (the lone Patriots fan) sitting on his throne of ease.

ESPN’s Football Today podcast was the first football podcast that I started listening to, almost ten years ago. It’s still good, but it’s gone downhill since Ross Tucker left. Now, Matt Williamson is leaving as well, so this one may end up getting dropped next year.

ESPN’s First Draft podcast features Mel Kiper and Todd McShay doing their draft thing. It keeps me going through the long dark season leading up to the draft.

Entertainment

Pop Culture Happy Hour is NPR’s weekly pop culture show (and is my wife’s favorite — she’s the proud owner of a set of PCHH drinking glasses). Always welcome on a Friday.

Movie Date from our friends at The Takeaway is a weekly movie-review podcast. We’ve found their sensibilities mirror ours pretty well.

Cheap Heat is the podcast to meet all your Pro Wrestling needs. It was originally from the dearly-departed Grantland.

It’s all Connected covers Agents of Shield each week, along with all the goings-on in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe.

General Interest

Hardcore History may be my favorite podcast of all. Once in a great while, Dan Carlin will drop hours of storytelling on you. We got through all of World War One earlier this year, and I’m currently re-listening to Wrath of the Khans.

Planet Money from NPR covers the world of the global economy with great storytelling.

The Broad Experience covers the world of women in the workplace.

The Longest Shortest Time, formerly of WNYC, now of Earwolf, I think, is a smart parenting podcast. I hope it does well in its new home.

Brains On is a great science podcast for kids.

Then, in the general category of "podcasts that engage your mind," I enjoy Hidden Brain, Invisibilia, Intelligence Squared, Note to Self, and Only Human.

Ok, that’s what I’m listening to now. What else should I be listening to? Please add a comment below, or drop me a line on Twitter.

Podcast recommendation for kids: Brains On!

January 2nd, 2016

I’ve been looking for podcasts for kids for a while, and I think I have a new favorite.

Brains On! comes from our friends at Minnesota Public Radio. It’s a science program aimed at elementary and middle school kids, complete with smart discussions and fun mystery sounds. Most of the segments are 20 minutes or so, so just perfect for a quick car ride.

And, my daughters love it, to the point they nag me to put it on whenever we get in the car.

You should check it out. Here’s the podcast link, or you can subscribe via iTunes.

Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2016

Happy New Year, everyone!

I apologize for the lack of updates since, oh, the summer. Work has been a little insane, and I’m just starting to dig out.

This little site turns 15 in a couple of months. I’m trying to think of neat ways to celebrate…

Linky Goodness, 9/3/2015 edition

September 3rd, 2015

Back to work day for me. The over/under on the number of unread emails is 1,950. I’ll let you know the real number tomorrow.

[Gosh] Yeah! It’s the first day of school. I feel bad, but I totally understand Drew Magary’s thoughts here.

As more adults bicycle, the number of injuries is going up. Seeing some of the horribly-behaving bicyclists around Concord, I’m not overly surprised. I think this is more a function of age than behavior, though.

The mother of all disasters. The Atlantic talks natural disasters. I have a bigger piece in draft mode right now, but this is worth reading today.

Free Tom Brady.

Linky Goodness, 9/2/2015 edition

September 2nd, 2015

The content talent crunch. Are good content marketers as rare as good engineers? Yes.

Redis Sets memory efficiency. Warning: geeky. I’m using Redis sorted sets heavily for one of my little side projects. What Salvatore is talking about here is well above my level of comprehension, but I’m happy to take advantage of it.

My favorite consulting lines. I’ve been out of the consulting world for a few months now, but these still resonated. I’ve had a couple of “I’d be a bad consultant if I didn’t put this in writing” moments…

Just how tall can roller coasters get? I just spent a week on Space Mountain, California Screamin’ and other roller coasters. It’s good to know that there’s nowhere to go but up!

Linky Goodness, 9/1/2015 edition

September 1st, 2015

Howdy!

I’ve moved the linky goodness half of this blog over to Twitter for the past few years, but I miss having it available on this site. Let’s give it a try and see if it’s still fun to write.

Maybe I’m just longing for the spirit of 2001-2008. I enjoyed writing this site then, and I’d like to try to get back to that. Let’s see if it takes.

Anyway, what’s interesting today?

To thrive, many young female athletes need a lot more food. My daughters are starting to fully embrace their tweendom, and I’m starting to worry about body-image issues.

Why phone fraud starts with a silent call. Phone spam keeps getting worse and worse. At this point, I’m unsure why I’m keeping my land line.

Tech nerds can’t get their heads around politics. I don’t think this is a surprise to most people.

End the tyranny of 24/7 email. I’m trying to model good behavior on this; I try not to send emails during off hours.

I’ve also been completely offline during my current vacation. I’m looking forward to the several thousand emails that await me on Thursday morning when I open my computer at work.

The ongoing saga of ‘A Gronking to Remember’

May 3rd, 2015

It’s not often my worlds intersect in this way. Here’s the NPR story covering the controversy around A Gronking to Remember:

Media sites I subscribe to (and pay for)

December 31st, 2014

In the late nineties, I subscribed to several weekly and monthly magazines. Business Week. Entertainment Weekly. The Economist. Red Herring. Upside. Harvard Business Review. And so on.

Fifteen years later, I subscribed to none.

That’s the way of the world, I suppose, and part of the ugly reality I lived through in the newspaper business.

This year, I decided to change it up, and see if I could atone for the web’s original sin. I took a look around and decided to see what was worth reading, what contributed more to my life than the Dunkin’ Big One or three I’d be sacrificing.

Here’s where I’m currently spending my cold, hard cash.

Public Media

Disclaimer: I have a large vested interest in the long-term success of public media. That said, I want my local stations to stay viable, which is why I donate to WBUR and WGBH. I also added WXPN (in Philadelphia) to the list this year because Robert Drake’s Day Before Christmas brought my family a lot of joy on Christmas eve.

Plus, if you don’t contribute, Elmo knows where you live.

Mainstream Media

The New York Times still has an insanely confusing matrix of options; I have the basic online subscription. Lots of people in my Twitter feed link to the Times, so it’s useful to be able to click on those links without having to remember to clear cookies, etc.

The Economist has grown-up stories and reasonable subscription plans. The feature that pushed me over the top is the audio edition. I can listen to all the articles in the magazine (er, newspaper) through a podcast. This usually gets me through a couple of commutes and a walk.

I quickly scan The Wall Street Journal each morning. I think about canceling every month, but I usually find at least one or two articles that make it worth keeping.

Technology and “media” media

The Information is a relatively new tech-industry site. I’ve found their reporting to be worthwhile.

Stratechery by Ben Thompson has high-value takes on the technology and media worlds. His deep dives on the system dynamics of my world always get me thinking.

Baekdal Plus by Thomas Baekdal goes very deep into the business of media. If you’re in the media business, you should subscribe.

That’s where I am right now. What else should I be checking out? I’m especially interested in Stratechery and Baekdal-style sites, featuring the voice of one person.

My new job at NPR

December 2nd, 2014

I have a new job. I’m now the Senior Director, Product Strategy & Development for NPR Digital Services.

I’ll be based in Boston (just down the road from my old Boston.com haunts), but I’ll be spending a lot of time in Washington and skipping around the country.

What will I be doing?

I’m going to be working mostly with the member stations, the NPR affiliates around the country. These are the stations like WGBH and WBUR in Boston and WNYC in New York. I’m working with them on their web and digital-audio products, including streaming and podcasts. I’ll also be working very closely with NPR.org.

Why am I doing this?

I believe in the mission of public media, and I think our distributed network of journalists, technologists and engaged citizens can do great things.

What does this mean for my other projects?

I’ll spend more time writing, and less time programming.

I’m likely sunsetting Serendeputy at some point in the next six months, and I’m putting my other projects on hiatus. I’ll still be futzing around with ideas, but I’ll do them here on JPButler.com.

I may end up open-sourcing some of the code I’ve written, especially the crawler and classifier applications.

I’m still pretty easy to find. You can follow me @jpbutler on Twitter, my main email address is jason@ this domain, and my npr.org email address is jbutler@.

I’m selling some domains

November 28th, 2014

I think my land-speed record is 37 seconds.

It took 37 seconds from thinking “Hey, OODAdo.com would be a pretty cool domain for tools around helping people more quickly design and navigate OODA loops” to going to Dreamhost to seeing if the domain was available to buying the domain.

37 seconds.

It’s a sickness.

Not a huge sickness, as these things go, though. It’s $10/year for a domain, and I own maybe 40 or so of them across all my interests. I can justify that as career development. Plus, it’s a business expense.

But now, I’m cleaning out my closet, and am looking to sell many of these domains. Here’s what I have up for grabs.

These are all domains you could build a brand around.

Docfu.com is great for any type of knowledge management. I had this as the placeholder domain for the next generation of Serendeputy.

Grawgo.com was originally a rough acronym for “Green as we go”.

Oodado.com is a play on OODA loops.

Freenon.com and Paynon.com are complements for an idea I was exploring around forkable nuggets of knowledge.

Nooler.com had no specific idea beyond “New + Butler”.

Manalgo.com is an idea I had around exploring the combinations of human (Man) and computer (algo) intelligence.

BostonProd.com and BostCTO.com were both domains that I planned to use as sites supporting my consulting business. It turns out they weren’t necessary, but they could be useful to a consultant, publisher or thought leader in Boston.

Awesomier.com and Menschier.com were both working off a (now-abandoned) idea around improving my personal habits.

Tweetazon.com is a simple idea around compiling and organizing all the Amazon links coming through my Twitter feed. I have a rough version of this idea up on TweetDeputy.

IMIFT.com was for a parenting site called “In my infinite free time.”

UFAWS.com was for a content site that talked about tools that are “useful, friendly and wicked smart.”

If you’re interested in doing something useful with any of these domains, please drop me a line at jason@ this domain. Otherwise, I’m going to put them up on Sedo in January to see if they will sell at auction.

AMC Theaters, assigned seats and going to movies in your 40s

November 26th, 2014

A. and I are old. (Ok, “older”). At this point in our 40s, we’re not in the prime demographics for any media other than Downton Abbey.

We still like to watch movies, though. We’ve worked hard this year to see a movie every Saturday night. We have charts of our progress, and the points of data make a beautiful line.

Most of the time, this is via Netflix DVDs. I actively manage the queue (recent items: Her, Gremlins and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure), and we block off time in our shared calendar. Each Saturday night as the clock strikes 7, the girls are put to bed, the wine is poured, the cats are comfortable, and we watch the movie.

That said, we still like to see movies in the theaters (it’s useful to still be culturally relevant occasionally), though this happens less often as the years have gone by.

Why? The logistics are painful. We have to get a babysitter (we can generally pull this together every six weeks or so), and then we need to fight the crowds, hope that we can get into the movie, fight for seats, etc. The friction keeps us away.

So, for the past few years, we’ve very rarely seen any movies in their first few weeks in the theater. There’s no way we’re going near the cineplex for opening weekend of The Avengers. We’ll see it four weeks later (all the while desperately trying to avoid spoilers).

But last Saturday night we saw Mockingjay on opening weekend at our local theater, AMC in Burlington. Without wanting to kill ourselves.

What changed?

AMC has started having assigned seats. This one change will make them a couple of hundred extra dollars a year from my family.

The Jobs to Be Done are pretty clear for me: amuse me for a couple of hours; spend some couple time with A.; don’t annoy me; and don’t cause extra cognitive overhead.

The biggest pain for me is the uncertainty. Will I be able to get a ticket? Will we be able to get decent seats together? Will it be a wasted trip?

Advance ticketing solved the sellout problem. Advance seat selection solved the seating problem. There is no chance that it will be a wasted trip. They have minimized my cognitive overhead, and — bonus — given us extra time to actually enjoy our dinner, as opposed to just wolfing it down.

AMC may even be getting a price premium, I really don’t know. In the context of a night out with a babysitter at home, the difference between a $10 ticket and a $15 ticket is negligible.

I’m glad to see businesses competing by upping their game as opposed to trying to nickel and dime, cut costs and optimize for “how crappy can we make the experience without driving everyone away.”

Good for AMC. We’ll be giving them more money soon.

Linky Goodness, 9/5/14 edition

September 5th, 2014

Yes, folks, it’s the long-awaited return of linky goodness. I’ve been putting a lot of thought into how to manage personal publishing, and I think I have a plan. We’ll see how it works through September, and then we’ll adjust.

For now, here are some links from the past week or so that have caught my eye.

Business Geekery

The secret world of fast fashion. I’ll always be an Operations Management geek — logistics stories are the best.

The 1099 wars

There’s an ugly showdown coming along in the 1099 wars. From Scott Kirsner in the Globe: In the sharing economy, a rift over worker classification and from The Information (subscription required): Court ruling on contractors a red flag for on-demand services.

Media Geekery

The Globe has launched Crux, a new site focusing on Catholic issues. It’ll be interesting to see how much traction a single-focus site can get. If it succeeds, I look forward to seeing media companies cranking these out.

Or maybe not. Sports on Earth died an unpleasant death.

Social Issues

National Geographic has done a fantastic feature on why people are malnourished in the richest country on earth. Now’s as good a time as any to contribute to the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Our Coming Robot Overlords

Will a Google car sacrifice you for the good of the many? The ethical implications here are fascinating. We trust police officers, doctors, firefighters with this power; can we trust algorithms?

The future of robot labor is the future of capitalism.

Meta

If you want to see most of these as I come across them, you should follow me (@jpbutler) on Twitter. My TweetDeputy application will also handily pull together all the links I’ve tweeted (along with all the links from everyone I follow).

If you have any suggestions, please drop me a line or send me a tweet.

Patriots and NFL websites and podcasts

September 4th, 2014

It's one of the happiest times of the year: NFL kickoff weekend. The Red Sox are having a tough year, and the Patriots are coming around at just the right time.

I’m a news geek (and a bit of an information junkie — of course, I eat my own dog food, so I’m a heavy user of Serendeputy’s New England Patriots page…)).

Beyond that, here’s how I’m keeping track of the Pats and the league this year. Have fun, and Go Pats!

Websites

Christopher Price leads WEEI’s coverage. On the radio, I love the Sunday morning show with Dale Arnold and his brethren. It’s the best companion when raking the leaves.

Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston is always on top of things.

Boston.com Patriots pulls together the Boston.com coverage. The Globe is paywalled.

The Patriots subreddit has a reasonably clueful set of commenters.

Pro Football Talk aggregates news from around the league. The commenters leave something to be desired. Here is the direct link to the Patriots stories.

The MMQB has excellent league-wide coverage. As does Grantland. Deadspin is often entertaining. They even let us know why the Patriots suck.

Podcasts

I listen to 2-3 hours of podcasts a day — in the car, on the trail or puttering around the house. These are my football favorites.

Ross Tucker Football Podcast. Ross Tucker (a former offensive lineman for the Patriots, among other teams) has an outstanding daily show during the season.

ESPN Football Today is ESPN’s daily football podcast, with Robert Flores and Matt Williamson.

Grantland NFL Podcast is Grantland’s football podcast, with Robert Mays and Bill Barnwell.

PFW in Progress is the podcast from Patriots Football Weekly, which is affiliated with the Patriots themselves. This is the closest of any of these podcasts to having the “hanging out with your (occasionally idiot) buddies at the bar.” feel.

Am I missing anything? Please leave a comment or tweet me @jpbutler with more suggestions.

Serendeputy 2 Update, July edition

July 16th, 2014

Happy July, everyone!

I’m making progress, but I’ve been mostly heads-down with client work the last few weeks.

The biggest change is that I’m moving from database-driven querying to search-engine-driven querying. I set up the alpha version using Postgres and hstore, and ran some tests to see where it would fall over. It turns out that it falls over at smaller load levels than I’d like.

I’m glad I ran that set of experiments when it was just me and a couple of folks playing with it, instead of in front of the whole world.

So, I’m implementing a version using Amazon CloudSearch for some of the heavy indexing lifting. Depending on how things work out, I should be able to see if this will carry me through by the middle of August. Then, I can fire everything up again and see where the new constraint in the system will live.

It’s also giving me a good chance to go back and refactor a few of the pieces that I didn’t get right the first time. I need to tear everything down anyway, I might as well fix the other stuff while I have the tools out.

I’m hoping for beta one at some point between now and eventually. It’s not quite turning into Project Xanadu, but I worry that we’re trending that way.

Thrill-seekers prepare

May 8th, 2014

Quick update: the alpha is close to the point where it will be available for thrill-seekers to test drive. Please ping me if you want an invite.

Progress continues.

Serendeputy 2 update for March

March 11th, 2014

I’m making good progress on this (increasingly) large project.

The production environment is sketched and spiked, using Amazon Web Services. I think I’ve solved the SSL issues with a combination of CloudFlare and elastic load balancer.

The crawler is up and running — I’d even say reasonably solid. It’s well-behaved, working with robots.txt files and following all the crawler best practices. Once it’s running on the AWS servers, I’ll get a better idea for how many sites just block traffic from the Amazon IPs on general principles. I have a feeling that I’ll be paying for other people’s sins.

The personalization math is done and the code is prototyped. As I’m using it, I’m tweaking the coefficients for the gestures to balance how much they can influence the profiles.

The front end is not egregiously ugly! No one would ever claim that I’m a designer, but I’m going to have that alpha in front of people to get feedback, and then bring in a real design person/team/agency for the beta version.

March is going to be an insane month in pretty much every corner of my life, but I’m still hoping to have an alpha version that I (and maybe you!) can use in the beginning of April.

Serendeputy 2 update for February

February 1st, 2014

I’m still working diligently towards my rock-solid deadline of “Launch this thing at some point in the indeterminate future.”

I finished the gesture engine this week. Now that that’s solid, I’m spending most of my time over the next month working on the profile balancer and its complement, the homepage builder.

I’m looking at these like a chef composing a recipe: how can I balance the flavors just right? I’m working to strike the balance among recency, relevance (how it maps to your interest profile), and reputation (how important the page is on the worldwide Internet).

My AWS infrastructure is set up, and I’m running parts of the application on it right now. Making progress.

I should be able to get into alpha Real. Soon. Now. (I’m shooting for by Opening Day, but we’ll see…)

Thanks for staying tuned.

The lives of junior investment bankers

January 15th, 2014

It's always fun to get a peek into other professionals' working lives. Here is the Epicurean Dealmaker on why junior bankers lives are as they are.

[T]his massively inefficient workflow arises organically out of the nature of the work we do. Typically, a junior banker will roll into work relatively late because she was at work until midnight, one, or two o’clock the previous night finishing the corrections or first draft of a presentation or model which a senior banker dumped on her desk before he went home and demanded be put on his chair overnight for when he arrived in the morning. It will often take several hours, if not all day, for the senior banker to review the changes and give them back (for why, see infra), so the junior banker will fill her morning with odds and ends of other projects or deals she is working on plus the inevitable conference calls with clients and internal meetings on live and prospective deals.